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GPs' professional practice

Survey reveals that GPs look to traditional sources not pharma for product information

In a break from our regular rotation of specialist doctor market research, this issue highlights some fascinating GP market research. In November 2009, surveyed its GP members via its Omnibus service regarding various areas of professional practice that most concern and affect them.

Which areas of your professional practise concern you most, looking ahead to the next 12 months? 

Which areas of your professional practise concern you most, looking ahead to the next 12 months?

Each GP was asked to choose three from a list of 13 different aspects of current NHS practice. Of these, three issues dominate the responses:
• Relicensing and revalidation
• Financial constraints on the NHS
• Pay and working conditions.

Each of these issues was chosen by more than two in five GPs, with relicensing and revalidation chosen by the majority of primary care doctors surveyed (53 per cent).

Given the huge amount of press coverage devoted to the subject, it is surprising to see that the 'impact of IT on healthcare' and the 'impact of pandemic influenza' were chosen only by a small minority (7 per cent and 13 per cent of GPs, respectively).


Which sources of health information do you trust the most? 

Which sources of health information do you trust the most?

GPs were asked to choose which of a list of health information sources they trust the most. Nearly three out of four GPs selected "medical publishers, for example Pulse, BMJ" (72 per cent), a dramatically different percentage from those choosing the pharma industry (only 3 per cent). Despite the sector's best attempts to build trust as a source of information, it seems that GPs remain sceptical – preferring to place their trust with more traditional sources.


What types of online resources do you find most useful? 

What types of online resources do you find most useful?

Online content provision is an increasingly important issue across the industry, in two ways: credibility and relevance. Credibility is a major barrier for the pharma industry as we will see, but it is also essential to make it relevant.

Doctors' spare time is very limited, and any attempt to engage with them must deliver what they want. The survey found that accredited CME modules are by some way the most frequently mentioned online resource in terms of its usefulness. It is very likely that this interest in CME relates to the revalidation process as all GPs must be able to demonstrate their learning through the annual appraisal system. Making such training available online also enables GPs to capture and store the relevant documentation they require to prove they are engaged in continuing professional development.


How often do you visit websites of pharmaceutical companies? 

How often do you visit websites of pharmaceuticals companies?

As data on trusted information sources suggest, GPs do not see the pharma industry as a suitable information source. About five out of six (82 per cent) visit pharma company websites less than once a month, and more than two in five (42 per cent) never visit them at all. As such, communication channel planning that relies on manufacturer-led online messaging to reach a wide range of GPs is likely to miss a substantial portion of its possible audience.


How do you prefer to receive information about pharmaceutical products and medical devices? 

How do you prefer to receive information about pharmaceutical products and medical devices?

Some 58 per cent of GPs who are members of, cited it as their preferred information channel. Although we would expect some bias towards, the sample of 1,000 GPs still represents a cross-section of doctors.

Beyond trusted online resources, GPs appear to have a three-tiered system with regards to preferred sources of information. The most popular sources are local meetings (46 per cent) and rep contact (41 per cent). Approximately one in four GPs selected three channels through which to receive information: conferences (27 per cent), advertisements in journals (25 per cent) and postal mailings (24 per cent). Newsletters are the least preferred information source; it was selected by just one in eight (13 per cent).


Which areas of chronic disease would you like to develop? 

Which areas of chronic disease would you like to develop?

When asked in which chronic disease areas GPs would most like support (in terms of information and education resources), more than half the GPs surveyed nominated a cardiovascular metabolic dysfunction, whether diabetes (59 per cent), or CV disease and stroke (55 per cent). More than half also suggested dementia (53 per cent) or mental health (52 per cent), indicating that therapy areas are dynamic not merely with regard to new product launches but also as market access bodies such as NICE try to restrict NHS expenditure on pharmaceutical products.

GPs are most concerned with matters that affect them directly in their professional life, whether it be the looming revalidation system or the extent to which they can trust the information they receive. Those who wish to communicate with primary care doctors online need, therefore, to deliver three things:
• Ensure that they choose a channel that doctors would choose themselves
• Deliver information in a format that doctors want
• And pass on credible and relevant information the doctors wish to receive.

At least the first two can be achieved reasonably straightforwardly, leaving pharma companies to wrestle with the information itself.

The Authors
If you would like more information on this survey please contact Martin Vines - associate director medeConnect Healthcare Insight
Alternatively, contact Carwyn Jones -

To comment on this article, email

1st March 2010


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